Durham area school boards dealing with vaccination ‘misinformation campaign’

Julie Vernooy, age 10, gets her COVID-19 vaccine inside the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Nepean Sportsplex in Ottawa Friday, November 26, 2021. Kids as young as four have mistakenly been able to book COVID-19 vaccinations via the provincial portal, OPH said Tuesday. Darren Brown / Ottawa Public Health

A school board with schools in Ontario’s Durham Region says they are dealing with a misinformation campaign about school COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

The issue came about even before the pediatric vaccine rollout was announced by the provincial government last week. Galen Eagle with the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School board says it’s caused alarm for parents.

“Families were receiving social media content, emails suggesting clinic locations were being set up,” says Eagle. “The misinformation was being farmed out on Facebook and Instagram saying there would be clinics during school hours without parental consent.”

According to the board and Durham Public Health, the information shared was not valid.

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One message containing school names and times was sent out to parents in several schools around Clarington and Peterborough area, saying there would be pop-up clinics — even listing locations and times.

“This type of misinformation really plays on parents fears and it buys into some of those conspiracy theories that we’ve seen on vaccinations,” says Eagle.

Click to play video: 'Fight against misinformation as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears'
Fight against misinformation as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears

“In some of our school communities, our principals are fielding dozens of calls. We’ve definitely seen a coordinated campaign to get this misinformation to parents.”

According to Dr. Robert Kyle, the Chief Medical Officer of Health with Durham Region, the claim that vaccinations would occur without permission by the parents is absolutely false.

“They are too young to understand the material risks and benefits of vaccinations,” says Dr. Kyle.  “Their parents or guardians would provide approval if they are under the age of 12.”

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The only currently scheduled school vaccine clinic for the PVNCCDSB is set to take place at St. Stephen Catholic Secondary School on a Saturday to give parents the opportunity to be involved.

Responding to the misinformation campaigns, Durham Region’s Public Health department is holding a virtual town hall Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Dr. Kyle says it’s their hope this will help them address parents concerns, before making a decision.

“This is all about trying to answer questions, bust myths, and inform parents as to the benefits of the vaccination and the side effects,” says Dr. Kyle.

Both Durham District School Board and Durham Catholic say they haven’t been dealing with the same issues yet, but reiterate there will not be any clinics taking place during school hours.

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